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Hezbollah Swings Back and Forth
Published in AL HAYAT on 17 - 12 - 2010

The swing between escalation and readiness for a political settlement is characterizing Hezbollah's stance on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) and the indictment that it will issue. This swinging back and forth does not indicate anything other than confusion and anxiety, contrary to what is maintained by the party's leaders, namely that they are not anxious about or afraid of the STL. The excuse given – that Hezbollah can and will be able to defeat the tribunal's objectives – does not necessitate all of this tension and some of the threatening rhetoric that has appeared in recent days.
Hezbollah, in terms of its political and military strength and capabilities, and regional relations, can until further notice confront any indictment and prevent any implementation of its directives, if in fact members of the party are accused of involvement in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri. Most likely, no one will able to get to any individual from the party who might be accused of the crime. Everyone is aware that it is difficult to reach any member of the party, even if being pursued by something less important than the STL, and on a charge that is much less important than that which some are rumoring, or leaking, might be made against individuals from the party. The latter has helped spread this rumor through the daily campaign it has waged against the tribunal for more than six months. Hezbollah can say that it is unafraid, because when its leaders and Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah maintain that it has faced pressures and difficulties greater than the challenges possibly imposed by the STL, this is closer to the truth. But if this lack of fear is true, it does not justify some of the tense stances that have been taken, because those who take them do not give the impression that they are unafraid.
If the fear of a “damaged reputation,” as Hezbollah leaders say, is what prompts them to engage in some escalation and defend the party's reputation with the Muslim public and the resistance's public itself, leading them toward “legitimate” self-defense, it is understandable, and justifiable, to see Hezbollah defend itself before the court of public opinion before that of STL. It might be understandable that the response to the so-called “damaged reputation” is to “damage the reputation” of the STL itself and of the international powers that have supported and continue to support the tribunal, and to make various accusations against it. It is thought that this will prompt other Lebanese groups, in the other camp, to accept the awaited political deal over the STL.
In parallel to these accusations against the side that is pro-STL, or at least does not want to abandon it, Hezbollah has been reiterating for weeks its commitment to Saudi-Syrian efforts, which are aimed at arriving at a settlement that will treat the likely repercussions of any indictment before or after it is issued. Meanwhile, leaders from the party reiterate their readiness for dialogue and cooperation to confront any sectarian Sunni-Shiite strife and their rejection of it, and their desire to sit together to discuss solutions that guarantee strife will be avoided.
Herein lie the swings that dominate Hezbollah's stance. The party has been forced to “raise its voice,” which causes it to stoop to taking positions of which it becomes a prisoner, along with the other camp, in the trench of confrontation, instead of meeting this other side on the way to a settlement. The other side repeatedly calls for dialogue, leaving behind pressure and accusations that have arisen since Hezbollah launched its campaign six months ago, or since Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced in June that the blood of his father would not be a reason for strife between Sunnis and Shiites. Hariri has unceasingly reiterated his stance with more clarity and precision in closed meetings, although Hezbollah and its allies refuse to give Hariri the chance to develop his stance due to the harsh pressure they are exerting on him, whether by paralyzing his Cabinet, making accusations against him and threatening him and his public, and ridiculing his many initiatives to pave the way for a settlement. This was seen in the response to his interview in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, when he stepped back from political accusations of Syria for his father's murder.
Hezbollah's rivals might not oppose the demand by Sayyed Nasrallah to “leave the problem to us and the STL,” because this matches their stance that the tribunal has become the responsibility of the international community, and because this leads to seeing the domestic political settlement take a separate track, and protects Lebanon and the region from strife. However, the party should leave behind the fluctuations that have characterized its stance, including its proposal to freeze the Security Council resolution that established the court cannot be carried out. Freezing the decision will only lead to seeing the issue remain pending and open, while the settlement will represent a “closing the file” domestically. This is important, because it will head off strife, which cannot be “frozen.” Is it possible that the murdered man's son will want to reach a settlement more than others?

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